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Xbox Review - 'Grand Theft Auto 3: Double Pack'

by Jordan Van Nest on Dec. 1, 2003 @ 1:31 a.m. PST

Developed by Rockstar North, the Grand Theft Auto franchise has long been applauded and praised for its expansive and open-ended gameplay, cinematic scripts, and epic soundtracks. Since its introduction in 1997, the franchise has received countless awards of excellence and universal critical acclaim. With sales of more than 25 million units worldwide, Grand Theft Auto is one of the most recognized franchises in the history of the videogame marketplace. Rockstar Games has finally brought the award-winning Grand Theft Auto 3 and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City as a "double pack" to the Xbox. Read more for the full review ...

Genre: Action
Publisher: Rockstar
Developer: Rockstar Vienna
Release Date: November 4, 2003


For as long as video games have existed, those who make them have all shared a single goal. A goal which has constantly evaded the grasp of many game-designers over and over again. It is this goal which continues to drive the video game industry, and constantly leads to the creation of new games. This goal is to create the perfect game. A game such as this would contain an engrossing storyline, never get old, and bring excitement to all that heard its name. It would have a host of interesting characters, and completely redefine its genre. It would be perfect. In past years, games have managed to come very close to this mark, but none have ever reached it. Until now. Welcome to one of the greatest games ever created. Welcome to Grand Theft Auto.

GTA is truly a legend among gamers. And with the recent release of Vice City, GTA's image has been catapulted to new heights. It's the game that everyone is talking about, and in a smart move recently, was imported to the xbox console. With so much hype surrounding this game, it's a wonder that there are still people who have never heard of it. Nevertheless, those who have heard of it usually are filled with nothing but praise for the game. Upon picking up the game I knew a great task was before me- to separate fact from fiction and create an honest review of a game that will forever go down in history.

First let me say that GTA is not perfect. No game is. However, there are those who still claim it is the perfect game and that it contains everything you could ever want in a video game- freedom, unlimited replayability, and unimaginable fun to name a few. While it is certainly up there, I believe it still has a few weak areas, just like any game, making it impossible to be perfect. That said, GTA is an excellent game.

The GTA double-pack for the xbox comes with two games- GTA 3 and its expansion, Vice City. GTA 3 opens as you (a deadly convict) and a few other fellow prisoners are being transported in an armored prison car through the streets of Liberty City. Somewhere along the way, the car is hijacked by some thugs looking to free one of their fellow gang-members. After a large explosion and several moments of confusion, you manage to escape and speed off into the city. Once you evade the cops and find a place to lay low, you will have the option to take on various missions at your own pace. As you complete these missions, you will gain favor with whoever has hired you, and will eventually begin moving up the ranks of the criminal underworld. As you complete risky jobs, the word on the street will spread and your popularity will begin to grow.

GTA's expansion, Vice City, has an entirely new storyline. Set in the bustling atmosphere of Miami Beach, the traditional GTA storyline gets a little added kick. The game starts off with you overseeing a standard drug deal on a dock in Vice City. All is going smoothly until some uninvited guests burst in on the exchange and force you to flee, leaving the goods behind. The only problem of course, is that the huge amount of money you lost belongs to one man- your boss. And if you don't find a way to pay him back soon, well you may just find yourself taking a little swim. With the assistance of a few shady characters, you'll slowly begin to work your way up the criminal ladder in Vice City as you complete various missions, just as in GTA 3.

There are many differences between GTA 3 and Vice City, however, the two games are also very similar. When GTA 3 was released, it shocked the gaming world. Never before was such a game created that allowed as much freedom as this. You can literally walk the streets, steal cars, beat up people, commit crimes, smash things, and basically get into all the trouble you want. That is the first aspect of GTA that everyone falls in love with- the freedom. The freedom to explore an entire city, (and eventually) travel from city to city is a very enticing idea, and serves as a base for getting people addicted to this game. While there are many different missions available to the player, it is always his choice as to whether he undertakes them or not.

At any given time the player may have 2 or 3 different people they can go to to get work. Basically, this game is all about freedom, and it truly shines through in every single aspect of the game. Not only are you given a huge amount of freedom, but this game is just extremely realistic. Everything about this game makes you believe that you are actually walking the streets of Liberty City. The various crimes which are possible to commit really add to the game, but of course what adds even more to the realism is the police's response to your actions. In GTA you are awarded a "star" if you commit a crime (that is if the police are alerted). After committing a minor crime, such as running over a pedestrian or starting a fight on the streets, you will be awarded one star and the police will attempt to get you out of your car and arrest you. However, as you begin to commit more crimes, you will be awarded more stars. The more stars you get, the more drastic the police response is. Eventually, private detectives, the FBI, and even the SWAT team can be sent in to stop you. And of course if you manage to get 6 stars (filling your star meter) then the army will be deployed (yes this includes helicopters, tanks, and troops too!) This adds so much realism to the game, and creates a challenge which is both fun and entertaining.

In addition to the various missions you have available to you, there are also many random missions. For instance there is a whole set of missions centered around Emergency Vehicles. If you manage to steal an ambulance, a firetruck, a taxi, or a police car, you can press a button and assume the role of the driver, carrying out missions for cash. (such as delivering a wounded person to the hospital for the ambulance, or stopping a criminal for the police car) And if this isn't enough to make the game seem real, there are even more aspects of this game which add to the extreme amount of realism. The very detail that has been put into the cities is incredible. Not only are they absolutely huge, but they are extremely detailed as well. There are various stores and shops that you can visit as well, such as the gun shop, the paint shop, etc.

Throughout all of GTA 3 I only noticed one minor annoyance, which may dull the experience for some. This is, that the missions tend to be a little repetitive. While the storyline continually changes, it just seems that you're always being sent to kill this guy or transport this guy here, and after doing this over and over you begin to see that the missions are a little repetitive. In addition, some of the missions are insanely hard and will take a whole lot of practice to complete. However, these are only minor annoyances, and in the end, are not enough to detract from the overall image of GTA. Another plus that I failed to mention is that this game is huge. Not only in size, but in length. These missions seemingly go on forever, and will keep you busy for a long long time. Even long after you have beaten the main missions, you will still have the urge to drive around Liberty City and see how much trouble you can get yourself into. This is truly the mark of a great game.

As good as GTA 3 is, Vice City takes it to a whole new level. Though it may seem impossible, the expansion somehow manages to exceed the original in almost every way possible. Almost everything seems improved and much better. This includes things such as the storyline, the characters, and even the new aiming system! It is very clear that an enormous amount of time went into the expansion and was spent updating and improving weaknesses that were found in the previous game. The most noticeable improvement is of course the storyline. While GTA 3 had a fairly good storyline, Vice City just blows it away. From the very start, you begin to notice that the expansion is a lot more structured, has many many more options, and (if you can believe it) is actually even bigger than GTA 3!

Another one of the great features in Vice City is the many new cars and bikes. Not only are there some sweet new cars, but there are now mopeds, motorcycles, and various other bikes to speed around town in. These are of course a lot more risky to your health, as a crash at high speeds can send you and your bike flying about a hundred feet through the air. But hey, it's all in good fun right?

Another one of the crazy new options is the ability to actually buy and run businesses. Eventually you can literally own Vice City! The various businesses include strip clubs, bars, and auto garages to name a few. These businesses will actually start to bring you revenue and add to your increasing cash pile. And remember the old problem in GTA 3 of repetitive missions? Well, not anymore. The missions in Vice City are all brilliantly thought up, and each are very different than the next. It just seems that everything, and I do mean everything, has been improved in the expansion. You can of course do everything you could do in the original GTA 3, but there are so many other options as well. Overall, Vice City is incredible.

Graphically, these games are sweet. So many fine details have been put into these games that everything just seamlessly blends together into one beautiful masterpiece. Everything from the cars to the weather has been created to replicate an exact environment, creating a very realistic game. Animations run smoothly as well, which greatly adds to the feel of the game. Also, the cities and buildings are perfectly done, and each building seems unique! Overall, the graphics are very well done.

The sound in these games is excellent as well. It was such a relief to finally play a game that had convincing voice-overs. The actors in these games really do seem to be genuine and everything they say seems to be actually happening. I also really liked the accents given to certain characters when needed, it helped to add a huge plus to these games. In addition, the sounds of cars, guns, and everything else in the world of GTA has been recorded at a top level of quality, which also adds to the greatness that is GTA.

In a world where nothing is perfect, GTA seems to come awfully close. Replayability, realism, and unequaled entertainment are just some of the reasons why you should definitely buy GTA. And what's even better is that for the first time ever both GTA 3 and Vice City come together in a special double-pack,(only $50!) making this the absolute perfect gift for any X-box owner. If you only buy one game this Christmas, do yourself a favor. Buy the game that everyone is talking about and will be talking about for many years to come. Get one of the best games ever created. Get GTA.

Score : 9.0/10

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